Howard Koh

Last updated

Howard Kyongju Koh
Howard K. Koh.jpg
15th United States Assistant Secretary for Health
In office
June 22, 2009 July 31, 2014
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Steven K. Galson (acting)
Succeeded by Karen DeSalvo (acting)
Personal details
Born (1952-03-15) March 15, 1952 (age 67)
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Spouse(s)Claudia Arrigg
Alma mater Yale College (B.A.)
Yale School of Medicine (M.D.)
Boston University (M.P.H.)
Profession Medical Doctor, Professor

Howard Kyongju Koh (Hangul: 고경주, Hanja: 高京柱; born March 15, 1952) is the former United States Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), after being nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2009. [1] [2]

Hangul Native alphabet of the Korean language

The Korean alphabet, known as Hangul in South Korea or Chosŏn'gŭl (조선글) in North Korea, has been used to write the Korean language since its creation in the 15th century by King Sejong the Great. It may also be written as Hangeul following the standard Romanization.

Hanja Korean language characters of Chinese origin

Hanja is the Korean name for Chinese characters. More specifically, it refers to those Chinese characters borrowed from Chinese and incorporated into the Korean language with Korean pronunciation. Hanja-mal or Hanja-eo refers to words that can be written with Hanja, and hanmun refers to Classical Chinese writing, although "Hanja" is sometimes used loosely to encompass these other concepts. Because Hanja never underwent major reform, they are almost entirely identical to traditional Chinese and kyūjitai characters, though the stroke orders for some characters are slightly different. For example, the characters and are written as 敎 and 硏. Only a small number of Hanja characters are modified or unique to Korean. By contrast, many of the Chinese characters currently in use in Japan and Mainland China have been simplified, and contain fewer strokes than the corresponding Hanja characters.

Barack Obama 44th president of the United States

Barack Hussein Obama II is an American attorney and politician who served as the 44th president of the United States from 2009 to 2017. A member of the Democratic Party, he was the first African American to be elected to the presidency. He previously served as a U.S. senator from Illinois from 2005 to 2008.



Koh graduated from Yale College in 1973 (where he was President of the Yale Glee Club) and Yale University School of Medicine in 1977. He completed postgraduate training at Boston City Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, serving as chief resident in both hospitals. He has earned board certification in four medical fields: internal medicine, hematology, medical oncology, and dermatology, as well as a Master of Public Health degree from Boston University School of Public Health in 1995.

Yale College undergraduate liberal arts college of Yale University

Yale College is the undergraduate liberal arts college of Yale University. Founded in 1701, it is the original school of the university. Although other schools of the university were founded as early as 1810, all of Yale was officially known as Yale College until 1887, when its schools were confederated and the institution was renamed Yale University.

Yale Glee Club

The Yale Glee Club is a mixed chorus of men and women, consisting of students of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Founded in 1861, it is the third oldest collegiate chorus in the United States after the Harvard Glee Club, founded in 1858, and the University of Michigan Men's Glee Club, founded in 1859. The Glee Club performs several concerts each year in New Haven and goes on tour each January. According to music critic Zachary Woolfe of the New York Times, it is "one of the best collegiate singing ensembles, and one of the most adventurous." Its members are "world famous for their harmonic precision" per New York Times music critic Robert Sherman.

Boston City Hospital hospital

The Boston City Hospital (1864–1996) in Boston, Massachusetts, was a public hospital, located in Boston's South End. It was "intended for the use and comfort of poor patients, to whom medical care will be provided at the expense of the city, and ... to provide accommodations and medical treatment to others, who do not wish to be regarded as dependent on public charity." In 1996 it merged with the Boston University Medical Center Hospital to form the Boston Medical Center.


At Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health, he was Professor of Dermatology, Medicine and Public Health as well as Director of Cancer Prevention and Control.

As the Assistant Secretary for Health, Koh oversaw the HHS Office of Public Health and Science, the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service, and the Office of the Surgeon General. He also served as senior public health advisor to the Secretary. At the Office of Public Health and Science, he led an array of interdisciplinary programs relating to disease prevention, health promotion, the reduction of health disparities, women’s and minority health, HIV/AIDS, vaccine programs, physical fitness and sports, bioethics, population affairs, blood supply, research integrity and human research protections. In these various roles, he was dedicated to the mission of creating better public health systems for prevention and care so that all people can reach their highest attainable standard of health.[ citation needed ] He announced his resignation at the end of July 2014. [3]

Surgeon General of the United States Head of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps

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HIV/AIDS Spectrum of conditions caused by HIV infection

Human immunodeficiency virus infection and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) is a spectrum of conditions caused by infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Following initial infection, a person may not notice any symptoms or may experience a brief period of influenza-like illness. Typically, this is followed by a prolonged period with no symptoms. As the infection progresses, it interferes more with the immune system, increasing the risk of developing common infections such as tuberculosis, as well as other opportunistic infections, and tumors that rarely affect people who have uncompromised immune systems. These late symptoms of infection are referred to as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). This stage is often also associated with unintended weight loss.

Vaccine biological preparatory medicine that improves immunity to a particular disease

A vaccine is a biological preparation that provides active acquired immunity to a particular disease. A vaccine typically contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism and is often made from weakened or killed forms of the microbe, its toxins, or one of its surface proteins. The agent stimulates the body's immune system to recognize the agent as a threat, destroy it, and to further recognize and destroy any of the microorganisms associated with that agent that it may encounter in the future. Vaccines can be prophylactic, or therapeutic.

Koh previously served as the Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health, Associate Dean for Public Health Practice, and Director of the Division of Public Health Practice at the Harvard School of Public Health. [4] At Harvard, he also served as the principal investigator of multiple research grants related to community-based participatory research, cancer disparities affecting underserved and minority populations, tobacco control and emergency preparedness. He was also Director of the Harvard School of Public Health Center for Public Health Preparedness, which promotes education about bioterrorism, pandemic influenza, and other emerging health threats. He has published over 200 articles in the medical and public health literature.

Harvey Vernon Fineberg is an American physician. He is the president of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and was formerly president of the Institute of Medicine from 2002 to 2014. He served as Provost of Harvard University from 1997 to 2001, following thirteen years as Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health. He has devoted most of his academic career to the fields of health policy and medical decision making. His past research has focused on the process of policy development and implementation, assessment of medical technology, evaluation and use of vaccines, and dissemination of medical innovations.

Koh served as Commissioner of Public Health for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (1997–2003) after being appointed by Governor William Weld. As Commissioner, Koh led the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, which included a wide range of health services, four hospitals, and a staff of more than 3,000 professionals. In this capacity, he emphasized the power of prevention and strengthened the state’s commitment to eliminating health disparities. During his service, the state saw advances in areas such as tobacco control, cancer screening, bioterrorism response after the September 11 attacks in 2001 and anthrax, health issues of the homeless, newborn screening, organ donation, suicide prevention and international public health partnerships.

Massachusetts State of the United States of America

Massachusetts, officially the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is the most populous state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It borders on the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island to the south, New Hampshire and Vermont to the north, and New York to the west. The state is named after the Massachusett tribe, which once inhabited the east side of the area, and is one of the original thirteen states. The capital of Massachusetts is Boston, which is also the most populous city in New England. Over 80% of Massachusetts's population lives in the Greater Boston metropolitan area, a region influential upon American history, academia, and industry. Originally dependent on agriculture, fishing and trade, Massachusetts was transformed into a manufacturing center during the Industrial Revolution. During the 20th century, Massachusetts's economy shifted from manufacturing to services. Modern Massachusetts is a global leader in biotechnology, engineering, higher education, finance, and maritime trade.

Massachusetts Department of Public Health

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is a governmental agency of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with various responsibilities related to public health within that state. It is headquartered in Boston and headed by Commissioner Monica Bharel.

Tobacco control field of public health addressing tobacco use

Tobacco control is a field of international public health science, policy and practice dedicated to addressing tobacco use and thereby reducing the morbidity and mortality it causes. Tobacco control is a priority area for the World Health Organization (WHO), through the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. References to a tobacco control movement may have either positive or negative connotations, both briefly covered here.

Awards and honors

He has earned numerous awards and honors for interdisciplinary accomplishments in medicine and public health, including the Distinguished Service Award from the American Cancer Society, the Drs. Jack E. White/LaSalle D. Leffall Cancer Prevention Award from the American Association for Cancer Research and the Intercultural Cancer Council, and the Dr. Harold P. Freeman Lectureship Award. He is an elected member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. President Bill Clinton appointed Koh as a member of the National Cancer Advisory Board (2000–2002). A past Chair of the Massachusetts Coalition for a Health Future (the group that pushed for the Commonwealth’s groundbreaking tobacco control initiative), Koh was named by the New England Division of the American Cancer Society as “one of the most influential persons in the fight against tobacco during the last 25 years”. Other awards include being named to the K100 (the 100 leading Korean Americans in the first century of Korean immigration to the United States), the Boston University School of Public Health Distinguished Alumni Award (the highest award of the School), the Sedgwick Memorial Medal of the American Public Health Association (2014) and an honorary degree from Merrimack College. In recognition of his national contributions to the field of early detection and prevention of melanoma, the Boston Red Sox designated him a “Medical All Star” (2003) which included the ceremonial first pitch at Fenway Park.

American Cancer Society health organization seeking to cure and treat cancer

The American Cancer Society (ACS) is a nationwide voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer. Established in 1913, the society is organized into six geographical regions of both medical and lay volunteers operating in more than 250 Regional offices throughout the United States. Its global headquarters is located in the American Cancer Society Center in Atlanta, Georgia. The ACS publishes the journals Cancer, CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians and Cancer Cytopathology.

Bill Clinton 42nd president of the United States

William Jefferson Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd president of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Prior to the presidency, he was the governor of Arkansas from 1979 to 1981, and again from 1983 to 1992, and the attorney general of Arkansas from 1977 to 1979. A member of the Democratic Party, Clinton was ideologically a New Democrat, and many of his policies reflected a centrist "Third Way" political philosophy.

Korean Americans social group

Korean Americans are Americans of Korean heritage or descent, mostly from South Korea, and with a very small minority from North Korea, China, Japan, and the Post-Soviet states. The Korean American community comprises about 0.6% of the United States population, or about 1.8 million people, and is the fifth largest Asian American subgroup, after the Chinese American, Filipino American, Indian American, and Vietnamese American communities. The U.S. is home to the second largest Korean diaspora community in the world after the People's Republic of China.

Personal life

Koh and his wife, Dr. Claudia Arrigg, are the parents of three children, Steven, Daniel, and Katherine. His brother is Harold Hongju Koh, the former Legal Adviser of the Department of State and Yale Law School Dean.

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  1. Smith, Stephen (March 26, 2009). "A Harvard dean gets call from Washington". Retrieved March 9, 2018.
  2. Murray, Sara (July 23, 2009). "Wall Street Journal". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved March 9, 2018.
  3. Demko, Paul (July 10, 2014). "Koh departing Obama administration". Modern Healthcare.
  4. "Assistant Secretary for Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services" . Retrieved December 1, 2010.